Julia Annas

Julia Annas a professor of philosophy at the University of Arizona, is the author of books on Plato’s Republic and, with Jonathan Barnes, on ancient scepticism. She is working on a book on ethics in the ancient world.

Memories are made of this and that

Julia Annas, 14 May 1992

The past may be another country, but when we try to study it the problem seems to be not so much that they do things differently as that they give such a different account of what they do. To understand past intellectual activities, in particular, we often have to divide up what for us is a single concern, or bring together issues which we treat as distinct. Coleman’s is an ambitious unifying project of the latter kind; its problems come from the nature of the two issues she yokes together.

What’s wrong with rights?

Julia Annas, 15 August 1991

Most of the gains that women have made over the last decades have come about when women have taken a share ot positions and opportunities hitherto reserved, by law or by custom, for men. And it is when this happens that we tend to get the most immediate and vivid sense that things have changed for both women and men. (The visibility of women in the US Army produces this sense in me, a Briton living in the US: it makes the British Army now seem peculiar.) These gains for women have generally been won in the name of justice and of rights. It is unjust, it is claimed, for women who are equally qualified to be excluded from a position which men hold, merely because they are women; it violates their rights. Simple and perennial as this argument is, we have yet to find a better.

Doing Philosophy

Julia Annas, 22 November 1990

‘The common reproach against me is that I am always asking questions of other people but never express my own views about anything, because there is no wisdom in me; and that is true enough.’ So says Socrates at 150c of Plato’s Theaetetus, presenting himself as the barren midwife who can help deliver others of beliefs – in this case about knowledge – and test them by argument, but who does so ad hominem, uncommitted to a philosophical view of his own. An anonymous commentator on the dialogue, writing probably in the late first century BC, notes of this passage: ‘Some say, as a result of passages like these, that Plato belongs in the sceptical Academy, since he holds no beliefs.’ Socrates perhaps, but Plato holds no beliefs? And, especially, no beliefs about knowledge?’

The Sponge of Apelles

Alexander Nehamas, 3 October 1985

Thales of Miletus, with whom histories of Western philosophy conventionally begin, was said to have been so concerned with the heavens that he fell into a well while he was gazing at the stars....

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